Every year we help hundreds of students to volunteer in local schools through the York Students in Schools Programme. We’ve been asking some of our current and former volunteers what their experience was like, so if you’ve been considering volunteering in a local school, read on to find out what it’s really like.
There’s still time to apply to volunteer during next term but the deadline is this Sunday 28 October. Apply online!
With thanks to our York Students in Schools volunteers – Hannah, Rosie, Alex, Thomas, Aillen, Anh and Rebecca
What made you decide to volunteer in a local school?
For the majority of the volunteers we spoke to, their motivation in taking part in the YSIS programme was to get some experience of working in the classroom to determine whether teaching might be the career path they would like to follow. For some though, curiosity and the desire to do something different, away from Uni, where they could make a difference was a key factor in choosing to volunteer.
“I was considering teaching as a career and wanted to see if it was right for me. After my first placement I realised I wanted to be a teacher so then chose to do more placements to figure out the subject area and age group that I wanted to teach.”
Rebecca, 3rd year Politics
What were the best bits about your placement?
Without a doubt, working with the children! All of our volunteers talked about the satisfaction of helping children to understand something they previously found difficult and being able to see the progress they were making throughout their time at the school. Similarly, the rapport built with staff and children was a highlight.
“Seeing that I could actually help the students get engaged or progress in the lesson, or simply help them believe that they were competent, made my days (both at those immediate times and whenever I recall the experiences!)”
Anh Pham, 3rd year Education Studies
A side effect of taking part in YSIS for one of our volunteers was the feeling of being part of the wider community and getting to know the city and its inhabitants outside of the ‘Uni bubble’
“I have been able to explore different areas of York, chat to a range of people and become more aware of local news, issues and gossip”
Rebecca, 3rd year Politics
And the worst?
Across the board, the answer to this was the early mornings! However it is only one day a week and we provide bus passes if you’re school is some distance away.
“The worst bit was taking two buses to the school and missing nights out for such an early wake up. It was always worth it when I got there however.”
Hannah, 2nd year Psychology in Education
What surprised you the most?
We had a range of answers to this, but several involved how hands on the role was from day one. You’re unlikely to just be observing but will be called upon to get involved, perhaps working with small groups.
“I was surprised at how fast I felt welcomed and needed in the classroom”
Rosie, 3rd year Sociology
For others the surprise was enjoying one aspect of the role they weren’t expecting to
“I was surprised by how much I enjoyed working with Reception (thought they’d be tiny – but I was eventually inspired to take the Early Years PGCE specialism!)”
Alex, 3rd year Politics
What sort of activities did you get involved in?
A whole range of things including working with small groups and 1 to 1 support, supervising mock exams, engaging with children’s play or helping with specific lessons.
“During my placement at a nursery school, I helped the children who were shy or whose first langauge was not English, to socialise and make friends”
Anh, 3rd year, Education Studies
When you apply for a volunteer placement you can specify the age ranges, subjects or any special areas of interest you would like to support for example, clubs or Special Educational Needs.
What has been the benefit to you?
If teaching is a career you’ve been considering then doing a volunteer placement in a school could help you decide whether or not it is something you want to pursue and if so which aspects of teaching really appeal to you. Our volunteers all agreed it had given them an insight into teaching techniques and classroom management.
“I have learned so much about different teaching styles. The placements have also massively improved my confidence. When you enter a school, the students see you as another teacher, so you have to take charge and be decisive”
Rebecca, 3rd year Politics
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about doing a schools placement?
Do it, enjoy it and get as much out of it as you can. The advice from our volunteers is to get involved. A placement with YSIS is half a day a week for one term and you don’t need to be considering teaching as a career or studying an education related degree to take part.
“Even if you aren’t thinking of teaching, it’s an excellent way to do something a bit different with your mornings and de-stress from studying!”
Thomas, 3rd year History
Finally some great advice from Anh, 3rd year Education Studies
Step 1 – write down all the concerns that make you hesitant about taking a placement.
Step 2 – think about the worst case scenarios as a consequence for each of those concerns.
Step 3 – ignore them all and apply for a placement.